As you are aware, I live in a neighbourhood with a steady stream of illegal activity happening 24/7. At times it is entertaining, frustrating, scary, and always thought-provoking. If you know me or have read this blog for some time, you may also know my attempts at dealing with the situation have included calling the cops, doing nothing, writing letters, and offering meditation classes at the shelter.
All of what I've seen has led me to the conclusion that what I'm surrounded by is all mental health related. When I went into the Shepherd's for instance, what I saw was that a lot of the people we call "homeless," actually live at the Shepherd's. They have rooms with keys and furniture. Some of them have family in the area, some don't, but they all seem to be dealing with mental health issues. I don't know if the circumstances caused the mental state or vice versa, but the results are the same.
The petty crime that goes on to get drugs isn't done by people who are highly functioning, well-adjusted adults. Even if they didn't start off with weakened mental health, once becoming addicted to drugs, they are for sure dealing with that now.
It's great that the police are around to help keep things stable, if you can call it that. And I'm sure they have great training, however, what a lot of these people could probably use is some support with their mental health. And I know there are crews of social workers wandering around doing outreach as well - I see them too.
Apparently we used to have more facilities for mental health patients but they were closed some years ago and continue to be reduced. What's happening is people are starting to come to where they can get some help and also be able to self-medicate. They're not alone here and have lots of company. It seems to me that a lot of the people in my neighbourhood are being under-served. If it's true we've reduced the treatment facilities and inpatient wards then it's time to revisit that and offer places for people to go so they can get the help they need. Sure, it would be more pleasant to have people off of the street and my steps, but really it's about taking care of each other.
We are sitting in luxury in our Canadian cities. We drive cars, have jobs or not, eat food flown in from thousands of miles away, and have the kinds of opportunities that our great-grandparents dreamed of for us. We now have the ability and resources to take care of each other. We need to educate ourselves about these issues and deal with them - not just pushing it to the side and hoping somebody else will take care of it.
I was happy to see that the captain of the Ottawa Senators, Daniel Alfredsson, is helping to spread the word about mental health. Check it out.
I've been saying for a while that mental health is society's next "obesity." As a yoga teacher I see more people dealing with mental health issues than anything else. It affects both the young and the old and everyone (and their families) in between.